Subjective Interpretation of “Objective” Video Evidence: Perceptions of Male Versus Female Police Officers’ Use-of-Force

May 21, 2021
28 upvotes

This study from April 2020 (https://content.apa.org/fulltext/2020-17958-001.html) looked at how participants perceived one and the same video of police force depending on what gender they believed the officer to be. They also had another group watch a segment containing no force. Remember that you are currently on reddit. The link to the full article is provided above - this post will only present parts of and is not meant to replace it.

The journal:

This journal is a publication of APA Division 41 (American Psychology-Law Society) https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/lhb/

As such, it is peer-reviewed:

Like other scientific journals, APA journals utilize a peer review process to guide manuscript selection and publication decisions. https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/resources/peer-review

Measured variables:

  • Trust in the officer,
  • Perceived officer effectiveness and
  • internal (the officer’s emotional reactivity, being a violent person, aggressiveness) vs. external (e.g., the dangerousness of the situation, the suspect’s behavior) attributions.

Participants and sample size:

We recruited a total of 637 MTurk workers, but excluded 185 (29%) participants for failing (a) manipulation checks of officer gender (n = 45, 7%); (b) officer race (n = 113, 18%); and/or (c) attention checks (n = 81, 13%). The remaining 452 participants were 53% female and 80% White, 7% Hispanic/Latino, 6% African American, and 7% other (Mage = 37.6 years, SD = 11.44).

The video:

We told participants that they would see a brief video of an interaction between a police officer and civilian and then complete a series of questions about the impressions they formed about the encounter and the officer involved. After reading a description of the incident, we showed participants a photograph and told them it was the officer that they would be seeing in a video of the incident, who had 7 years of experience. They viewed the police–civilian interaction video and completed dependent measures in the order listed below. Participants viewed the video a second time halfway through the measures and we presented the photo of the officer before each set of measures. [...] All participants saw a segment of video from the same interaction involving an officer responding to a call about a person acting disorderly. We found the video online; to our knowledge, the video is not from a famous case. We asked participants if they recognized the officer and none of the participants did. Participants were randomly assigned to see a segment depicting the officer either (a) talking to the suspect without using force (58 s); or (b) talking to the suspect and then throwing the suspect to the ground and wrestling with him (60 s). The video contained no sound. The low-resolution video was far enough away that the lack of detail makes the race and gender of the officer unclear, but the use-of-force and motion was obvious. The suspect’s gender was relatively more visible than the officer’s because the suspect was wearing shorts and light clothing, which made his body form and size relatively more visible than the officer, who wore dark pants and long sleeves against a dark background. At the end of the study we asked participants to guess the suspect’s gender and race. The race of the suspect was unclear (47% said White, 32% said African American, 3% said Hispanic, 18% said they could not remember), but it was much more clear that the suspect was male (98% said male). Because both videos are different segments of the same interaction, the setting and individuals were constant across conditions.

Significant findings:

Trust in officer:
no force force participant gender
"As predicted, when officers did not use force, the officers’ gender did not affect how much participants trusted them." "However, when officers did use force, participants trusted female officers significantly more than male officers. The race and intersectional effects were not significant." "The analysis demonstrated that the Officer Gender × Force interaction did not depend on participant gender (i.e., the three-way interaction was not significant). Further, the Officer Gender × Force interaction reported above (to the left in this table) remained significant in this analysis that controlled for participant gender."
participant gender both force conditions
female participants "There was a significant two-way interaction between participant gender and officer gender (regardless of whether the officer used force). More specifically, female participants trusted female officers (M = 4.85, SD = .13) significantly more than male officers (M = 4.37, SD = .14);"
male participants "whereas male participants trusted female (M = 4.28, SD = .15) and male (M = 4.48, SD = .14) officers to a similar degree."
Perceived effectiveness:
no force force participant gender
"When officers did not use force, participants thought that male and female officers were similarly effective." "In contrast, when the officers used force, participants perceived female officers to be significantly more effective police officers than male officers. The race and intersectional effects were not significant." "We again conducted an additional ANOVA that included officer gender, use-of-force, and participant gender (see Supplemental Table 1 for detailed statistics), which demonstrated that this two-way interaction again did not depend on participant gender (i.e., the three-way interaction was not significant). Further, the Force × Officer Gender interaction reported above (to the left in this table) remained significant in this analysis that controlled for participant gender."
participant gender both force conditions
female participants "There was again a two-way interaction between participant gender and officer gender (regardless of whether the officer used force). Female participants perceived female officers (M = 4.97, SD = .12) to be significantly more effective than male officers (M = 4.64, SD = .12); "
male participants "whereas male participants perceived female (M = 4.45, SD = .13) and male (M = 4.66, SD = .12) officers to be similarly effective."
Attribution of force:
Effects & Mediators Force
Attributions and trust "More specifically, when a male (compared with a female) officer used force, participants thought his behavior was driven less by the situation and more by something internal to him. In turn, both of these factors were significantly associated with participants trusting him less than a female officer (see Figure 3)."
Attributions and effectiveness "When a male (compared with a female) officer used force, participants thought his behavior was driven less by the situation and more by something internal to him. In turn, both of these factors were significantly associated with participants perceiving him to be less effective than a female officer."
Mediators -> perception "More specifically, the effect of officer gender affected trust in and perceptions of the officer through all four of the mediators: Participants perceived male (vs. female) officers who use force as more driven by internal factors, more emotionally reactive, more aggressive, and less driven by the situation and, in turn, all of these factors explained unique variance in trust in and perceptions of the officer."

Although we believe that the order of psychological processes that we tested in these models are intuitive and supported by decades of theoretical support for attribution theory (Fiske & Taylor, 1991; Weiner, 1986, 2006), we cannot infer that different attributions cause changes in trust in and perceptions of the officer given that both our mediators and outcomes were measured. Thus, we conducted additional models that reversed the order of our outcomes and mediators. (It is important to note that we could not run truly parallel models because we originally ran a dual-mediator model, whereas we had to run two separate single-mediator models to test the impact of each outcome on each of the two mediators.)

Effects & Mediators Force
Perception -> mediators "We found that our indirect effects were also significant when we reversed the order of the mediators and outcomes (see Supplemental Table S5). That is, we found that when a male (vs. female) officer exerted force, the degree to which participants endorsed internal and external explanations for that force operated through their trust in the officer and their perceptions of the officer. For example, participants trusted male (vs.) female officers less, and in turn that decreased trust was associated with making more internal and less external attributions. We found similar patterns for perceptions of the officer as a mediator."

Inconsistency with role congruity theory:

Women who engaged in a traditionally masculine behavior (exerting physical force) were trusted more and perceived to be more effective than a man engaging in the same behavior. This is particularly surprising, given that role congruity theory predicts that the more masculine the domain, the greater the backlash would be—pointing out the military as an example (Eagly & Karau, 2002).

Naive Realism:

The assumption that video provides objective evidence that will eliminate diverging opinions about whether the force was excessive represents a theorized “naïve realism.” More specifically, it represents the perception that photographic evidence is a direct representation of reality containing objective truth that everyone would agree on if they saw it with their own eyes (Feigenson & Spiesel, 2009). Yet, personal biases can pull interpretation of a videotaped event into alignment with one’s worldview.

The justice system:

The study also has bearing on our justice system, Salerno said. “We hope that everyone will be treated the same, but if jurors were looking at the video of the police using force it would seem that male officers might be punished more harshly than female officers. They’re all watching the same incident, but they might judge that person more harshly because they make different assumptions about what drives a male versus female officer’s aggressive behavior. It’s an example of how gender stereotypes can potentially lead to different outcomes.” https://news.asu.edu/20200320-discoveries-female-police-officers-use-force-seen-more-justified

The authors making questionable statements:

The authors claim:

Instead, our findings are consistent with a smaller number of studies demonstrating a gender contrast effect, which finds that in some circumstances people rate women who violate gender stereotypes more favorably than men. Although rare, these studies that show a gender contrast effect are important to document to try to determine what circumstances lead to women being able to demonstrate valued behaviors that are traditionally considered masculine without backlash for violating prescriptive gender stereotypes.

Valued behaviours you say?

Given the extensive press coverage of police officers’ use of lethal force, it is perhaps not surprising that people had much more negative reactions to officers who used force relative to those who did not. Female officers were buffered somewhat, however, against this backlash relative to male officers. Despite having seen the exact same video, people trusted the officer who used force more and thought the officer was more effective when they thought the officer was a woman relative to when they thought the officer was a man.

That is not valued.

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Post Information
Title Subjective Interpretation of “Objective” Video Evidence: Perceptions of Male Versus Female Police Officers’ Use-of-Force
Author DistrictAccurate
Upvotes 28
Comments 0
Date May 21, 2021 7:05 PM UTC (6 months ago)
Subreddit /r/LeftWingMaleAdvocates
Archive Link https://theredarchive.com/r/LeftWingMaleAdvocates/subjective-interpretation-of-objective-video.1061274
https://theredarchive.com/post/1061274
Original Link https://old.reddit.com/r/LeftWingMaleAdvocates/comments/ni07sv/subjective_interpretation_of_objective_video/
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